The Future of Mobile, Part 2:
How to Have it All, Without Being Had

the-future-of-mobileIn our last post, we listed 10 mobile innovations that may define what the future will look like – from better batteries to time travel. (Kind of.) Perhaps some of those are a stretch. Yet no one would argue that over the last couple decades, mobile has morphed into something so much more than a phone. Today the evolution continues to move right along at a steady clip, as mobile goes on reshaping our lives bit by bit.

For most of us, those transformations are seriously exciting. It’s nice to be able to exchange funds by tapping your phone on a friend’s. It’s convenient to instant accent to friends, news, personal finance and a myriad of other services in your pocket at all times. It’s kind of a life-saver, to finally get a handle on your budget, or your fitness, in a way that actually works for you.

That said, not all of the effects are positive – something that researchers, psychologists and (let’s be honest) worry-warts have been concerned about for a good while now.

How is mobile affecting us? Many ways.

Brain changes for young and old

Kids love mobile devices. And it’s so easy to use your phone as a babysitter. Heck, sometimes it’s sanity-saving. But too much of a good thing can be detrimental: researchers say that using mobile devices can impact children’s socio-emotional development, impeding their ability to self-regulate, for example.

Among adults, relying too heavily on mobile devices is a Faustian bargain. On one hand, you get all the data in the Internet at your fingertips. On the other, you get dumber. “You can’t remember phone numbers anymore, your body clock is shot and your hippocampus – the part of the brain that controls your sense of direction – is shrinking,” said the tech site Alphr.

Behavioral changes – stop phubbing!

What is phubbing, you ask? A recently-coined portmanteau that joins “phone” with “snubbing.” It’s when a companion pulls out their phone instead of just being in the room with you. Concerned about what this phenomenon is doing to human relationships, the website started calling it out. Funny detail – the developers made it impossible to visit the site from a mobile device.

Experiential changes, from bus stops to road trips

Those of us over a certain age will surely remember what it’s like to be bored on a road trip. Today’s kids? Maybe not. “Today’s kids have computers, iPods, iPads, YouTube, 250 channels on TV, Netflix, etc,” said a CapitalMOM article. “No chance of being bored on a long car trip or a rainy summer day.”

It’s not just road trips. It’s bus stops, kitchen tables, sidewalks. A kind of being in time and space is disappearing. For example: coffee shops, historically, have been places of discourse for literally hundreds of years. Yet today, our devices exert “an unwieldy and anti-social presence in public places” that “tends to influence atmosphere and shut humans off from one another,” CNET said. Again, too much of a good thing. When a bakery cut the WiFi and banned laptops and tablets, profits doubled and customers said the place became more relaxing.

Public safety changes – stop texting!

Mobile affects us on a human level in many ways. It also affects public safety. In 2014, USA Today reported that cell phone use caused over 1 in 4 car accidents. Last year, CNBC linked this “boom in cell phone use” to the “costly problem of road injuries and deaths.”

But let’s take a step back. As you may have noticed, most of the impacts we’ve been talking about here have more to do with how we use our mobile devices than with the devices themselves. These are powerful, transformative tools whose potential is only beginning to unfold, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. We just have to make sure we’re harnessing mobile in the right ways. To leverage the future of mobile to its fullest, we just need to make sure that we – not our robots – are in the driver’s seat.

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